Well, yes, in theory…. In practice, though, as Forrest Gump said “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”. And he’s right – because I sure wasn’t expecting what happened next! There we all were, driving happily along the motorway, chatting and singing along to the music, just a few kilometres out of Bordeaux, when all of a sudden the car lost power…. Completely. Pushing on the accelerator pedal, there was nothing happening – we just started going slower and slower, as cars whizzed past us, flashing and beeping because we were causing a blockage.
With hazard lights blinking, I managed to pull the car over to the side, and asked Dylan to call my local garage straight away and let them know what had happened. The garage is run by a lovely man who is extremely helpful – and who has had to arrange to pick me up once before when the same car refused to start. This time, though, we were miles away… and I knew that nothing could be done until the next day.
“This is serious, but it’s ok” I said to my two passengers “We’ll stay calm and find a way through” Both of them nodded, totally unfazed by what was going on.
While Dylan was still on the phone, I restarted the car and it seemed to work again. Kicking back in to action, we pulled off the hard shoulder and back in to the stream of traffic. All seemed well, but then it happened again…. This time there were even more cars around us – but there was also a slip road coming up. I pulled over again and stopped the engine.
“Right, we’re heading for that turn-off” I said “Can you guys keep your eyes peeled and help guide me?” They nodded, and I prayed that I’d be able to start the car again. Yup… thank goodness, she started straight away, and the three of us willed her to keep going.
We managed to pull off, and, as luck would have it, the road took us straight to a park and ride, where you can leave your car and take the tram in to town. I smiled to myself – and then laughed out loud as I noticed that the name of the road we were parked in was LaVergne… my best friend’s new surname after she got married last month.
Nowhere To Stay
All seemed well, until we called the apartment to let them know we’d be late. It was just gone 8pm, but their reception had closed 5 minutes before we rang. I’d prepaid for the room, but with no way of contacting the owners we knew it made no sense to traipse over to an empty apartment, because we wouldn’t be able to get in. So now we were car-less and hotel-less in a town that none of us knew.
And this, I believe, is a perfect example to show that what we choose to think can make an experience better or worse. I’m not saying that positive thinking will change the situation – but I am saying whole-heartedly that choosing supportive thoughts can affect the way we respond. And, therefore, increase the likelihood of keeping our options open, staying focused and finding a helpful solution.
So, having locked up the car and arranged to meet the tow-truck the next morning, the three of us picked up our overnight bags and headed towards the tram station.
“Well, this isn’t what we planned is it eh?” I said to Dylan and his friend Claire, consciously keeping a smile on my face to reassure them.
“It’s ok, it’s an adventure!” piped up Claire, by this time echoing the words I’d used earlier on. The three of us got on to the tram and headed in to town to find a room for the night.
Now, the point here is this. Imagine how different the mood might have been had any of us decided to panic or become frightened? Instead, we stayed together, kept smiling, and just knew we’d find a solution.
Until we suddenly realised that Dylan had left his bag at the tram station. His bag contained his passport and all the papers he needed for his meeting – without these he would not be allowed to take part and would automatically forfeit his chance to interview. Adrenalin pumping, we all jumped off at the next stop. Taking Dylan’s other bag from him, Claire and I headed back towards the tram station while Dylan sprinted for all he was worth. We still managed to keep a cool head – despite what was going on around us. Not knowing whether or not the bag would still be there, Claire and I started exploring options around what we could do in the worst-case scenario.
Looking On The Bright Side
Luckily his bag was still there – and once again we started counting all the good things about what was happening. The fact that we’d managed to get off the motorway. That we knew a garage who could come and help. That we’d managed to park right near a tram station. That we’d found the bag. That, if push came to shove we could even sleep in the car… we only focused on our ‘luck’ in what was, quite frankly, a pretty grim situation.
The situation got worse, because every hotel we visited or called was fully booked. It was 11pm before we eventually found a place to stay – the room was costly, but it didn’t matter. At least we’d be able to rest and wash for the morning! None of us had eaten, so we headed straight out to find the only place that might possibly still be open – a MacDonald’s. Tired and hungry, we were delighted to find that the lights were still on – but as we got nearer, realised that they were just shutting up.
Still we didn’t give up. We noticed that this particular restaurant also had a drive in – and realised that it was still open! We didn’t have a car, of course, but decided that was no problem. We’d ask them at the counter, and if that didn’t work then we’d ask one of the driving customers to place an order for us. It worked. They agreed to serve us, and we sat outside greedily devouring our burgers – I usually don’t go anywhere near fast food like that, but let me tell you, right then it tasted like manna from heaven!
Looking at the two young people who were sitting with me, I felt exceptionally proud to be with them both. Despite the difficult situation, and the possible threat to their big day tomorrow, they’d both kept calm, focused and light-hearted throughout the ordeal. We were all tired, but we all still had smiles on our faces and continued to joke about the evening’s shenanigans.
“We’re really lucky you know, mum” said Dylan, stuffing the last few chips into his mouth “things could have been a lot worse if you think about it. Thank goodness we decided to come down today – we’d never have made it if we’d gone with our original plan to leave early tomorrow morning!”
That, for me, sums it all up. It doesn’t matter what happens to us – there will always be things that are out of our control, some good and some bad…. Some very bad in actual fact. But no matter what happens, we always,always have a choice about the way we choose to think about it and the way in which we respond. So in that way, we are always free. Forever.
By the way, both of them had brilliant interviews and caught the train back together, while I got home in the tow-truck. All’s well that ends well, eh? And, in my experience, it always does end well in some way, shape or form.